The US, Japan, India and Australia yesterday expressed concern over the militarization of the East and South China seas on the heels of a flare-up in tensions between Washington and Beijing.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and the foreign ministers of the other three nations met in New Delhi under the auspices of a grouping they call the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, commonly called “the Quad.”
The latest meeting, on the sidelines of a G20 gathering in the Indian capital, comes weeks after Blinken canceled a trip to Beijing following an alleged Chinese spy balloon’s flight over the US.
In a joint statement, the Quad called for “the importance of adherence to international law” in the seas “to meet challenges to the maritime rules-based order.”
“We strongly oppose any unilateral actions that seek to change the status quo or increase tensions in the area,” it said.
“We express serious concern at the militarization of disputed features, the dangerous use of coast guard vessels and maritime militia and efforts to disrupt other countries’ offshore resource exploitation activities,” the statement said.
China claims sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea, through which massive amounts of trade passes annually.
It has ignored an international court ruling that its claims have no legal basis and built bases in the waters, alarming Washington and other Asian countries with territorial claims in the waters, including Taiwan.
Beijing has repeatedly accused the US of spearheading the Quad to encircle the rising Asian power.
However, China has no reason to fear the Quad, Japanese Minister of Foreign Affairs Yoshimasa Hayashi said.
“This is not military, but just practical cooperation,” Hayashi said at the Raisina Dialogue forum in New Delhi.
“As long as even China abides by the laws and international norms, and also acts under the international institutions, standards and laws, then this is not a conflicting issue between China and the Quad,” he said.
The ministers said they discussed joint efforts including building the resilience of supply chains and working together on vaccine delivery.
Meanwhile, the Quad allies yesterday released another statement saying that Russia cannot be allowed to wage war with impunity.
A day earlier in New Delhi, Blinken met Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov for the first time since the Russian invasion began.
During the brief encounter, Blinken urged Moscow to end the war and reverse its suspension of the New START nuclear treaty, a senior US official said.
Moscow said that Lavrov and Blinken spoke for less than 10 minutes and did not engage in any negotiations, Russian news agencies reported.
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